Police: Man scammed elderly dementia patient of at least $50,000

TACOMA, Wash. - An 86-year-old woman diagnosed with dementia was scammed out of $50,000 dollars by a man who claimed to be a landscaper, and the woman isn't the only one to be fooled, prosecutors say.

Dayton Dixon came to Midred Zolman's door in late 2011, offering his landscaping services. The elderly woman lives by herself in a modest home in Tacoma's Proctor district.

"He never really did any work to speak of," Zolman says. "He might have gone around the lawn once or something like that, and that was the extent of it."

Zolman's son recently was appointed power-of-attorney for his mother after she had surgery, and noticed his mother had written several large checks to "Dayton's Landscaping" over the course of a year.

Court documents show Dixon cashed Zolman's checks for thousands of dollars, but having been diagnosed with dementia, Zolman has no memory of it.

Zolman wrote checks that grew in sums of $3,335, $4,700, $7,900, $8,000, and $8,600 a month. Investigators say Zolman's yard is standard with no extravagant landscaping, and determined it would cost approximately $3,000 annually for upkeep.

The man continued bilking Zolman until she was left with only one dollar in her account, according to prosecutors.

"How could I not remember all of that?" Zolman questions. "I can't believe I was that stupid."

Dixon pleaded not guilty to nine counts of theft for stealing $57,000 from Zolman and another 73-year-old woman.

"They're just easy targets," Deputy Prosecutor Erika Nohavoc says. "Oftentimes with significant memory loss, and just don't have the cognitive ability to understand what they're doing."

Nohavoc says it's a possibility for Dixon to end up in prison with the severity of the charges involving such a vulnerable segment of the population.

"Our new Elder Abuse team aggressively prosecutes those who exploit some of our most vulnerable victims," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Dixon is being held in jail on a $50,000 bail.